Union flag to fly on designated days only despite motion

BALLYMONEY Borough Council has agreed to continue to fly the Union flag on ‘designated days’ only despite a call from the DUP to discuss its present policy.

During last Monday’s Full Council meeting, the Mayor, Cllr Evelyne Robinson (DUP) agreed to ‘abide by the rules with regret’ although insisted that it was ‘bad for a country not to be able to fly its flag’.

Cllr Robinson raised the issue under ‘Mayor’s Business’ and asked Cllr Mervyn Storey to speak on the matter.

Cllr Storey said: “I have informed Council of the intention of the DUP.

“The issue of flying of the Union flag should be raised at the Finance and Personnel Committee (Corporate and Central Services Committee).

“The issue is very challenging, however we must not lose focus of what has been brought in to sight by as a result of the decision by Belfast City Council.

“I ask Council to put this on the agenda of the Finance and Personnel Committee (Corporate and Central Services Committee) to be discussed by members.”

Cllr Robinson added: “Until the Committee meets and discusses it, the flag, as it has been doing, flies here, until such times as we come to an agreed decision.”

However Sinn Fein councillor Philip McGuigan questioned Cllr Robinson’s comment, quickly highlighting that he believed Council could only fly the flag on designated days.

He asked: “Is there not an agreement/decision that the flag is only flown at certain times?

“Maybe I’ve misunderstood but if you are suggesting the flag be flown until a decision is made then that is out of order.

“We have a policy that the flag flies on designated days only.”

Cllr Robinson asked the Chief Executive to clarify the issue.

In response the Chief Executive, John Dempsey explained that in 2000/1 the number of designated days the flag should be flown was officially reduced by the flags legislation and as a result Council ‘chose to defer the decision to move in line with the new rules and maintain the longstanding policy it had’.

However he added: ‘The matter was never raised again’.

He outlined that Council had been flying the flag on designated days including three additional days: Christmas Day, January 1 and July 12.

However he explained that the days were continually increasing with regards to Royal Family dates including weddings, deaths and birthdays - adding the Duchess of Cambridge’s birthday was now a day which was not on the original list.

However Mr Dempsey concluded: “At present our policy is to fly the flag on designated days and until Council changes the policy that remains the position and we should maintain that.”

He confirmed that notice would be required to be given for any review/change in the policy and that had now been given by Councillor Storey, earlier.

Over the past few weeks hundreds of protestors have been demonstrating and rioting in Belfast following a controversial motion to restrict the flying of the Union flag to designated days only was passed by Belfast City Council.